Down but not out

Brown concussion not fatal to Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes

Devin Daley

The Pittsburgh Steelers are miraculously on to the second round of the NFL playoffs after Vontaze Burfict’s hit, that falls just short of an assassination attempt on Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown, proved to be extremely costly to the Bengals. Despite the play setting up Chris Boswell’s game winning field goal, it also resulted in Brown being diagnosed with a concussion. Due to the unpredictable nature of concussions, Brown’s status for the rest of the playoffs is uncertain at this point.

The loss of Brown for any stretch of games, when the stakes are as high as they are, in the playoffs is incredibly concerning for Steelers’ fans. However, the worry may be greater than is necessarily warranted. The potential loss of Brown does take star power off the field, but the Steelers may be able to limit the negative impact that Brown’s injury will have on the offense.

Although Brown is one of the elite receivers in the NFL, his supporting cast is extremely productive as well, allowing him better opportunities due to the threats that the other wide receivers pose. This supporting cast may be the Steelers’ saving grace if Brown is out. Fellow wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton both average over 15 yards per catch with the duo averaging 15.4 and 17.0 yards per catch respectively. They are two of just 25 players to be above the 15 yards per catch mark this season with Wheaton being ranked ninth in the league in that category.

In addition to that duo’s big play ability, running back DeAngelo Williams is expected to return for the lineup against the Broncos. The return of the league’s 10th leading rusher will surely solidify the Steelers’ ability to run the ball but will also give Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another short option out of the backfield. A combination of Williams as well as Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman, who handled running and receiving the ball out of the backfield well against the Bengals, will take lots of pressure off of Roethlisberger not only by establishing a dangerous running game, but also by giving him short options to compliment the big play abilities of Bryant and Wheaton.

Regardless of who on the Steelers’ roster is able to play, they face a tall task in the second round facing the Denver Broncos defense who has been one of the best in the league this year. The Broncos defense ranks top five in all of the major categories, including ranking first in both yards allowed per game and pass yards allowed per game. This just means that the Steelers’ inconsistent defense will have to limit the Broncos’ offense that will be led this time by a future hall of famer, Peyton Manning, rather than Brock Osweiler, who was at quarterback when the two teams squared off in week 15.

With the Broncos’ offensive and defensive prowess, the Steelers will have to use their high powered offense to stand toe-to-toe with this AFC powerhouse. A part of this will be concentrating on the talent that will be available on the field as opposed to who is not available, a task that becomes immensely harder if Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury keeps him out.